The Note: Learning to Use Irrationality As a Bargaining Tool

"The most predictable members of Safety Net Nation are liberals who favor activist government. The really crucial bloc, however, is made up of those who backed Bush in 2004. They still approve of his overall job performance but have soured on Wall Street and dislike the President's approach to Social Security. This faction -- estimates range from 17% to 22% of the electorate -- rejects both traditional liberalism and conservative laissez-faire. In an era of rampant job insecurity, when employer-provided pensions and health coverage can no longer be taken for granted, they want a middle-class security blanket that gives them protection as they build wealth."

" . . . If the President can't win over some of these skeptics, GOP knees will continue to buckle on Capitol Hill. More important, other elements of his agenda, from new savings plans to personal health-care accounts, could be imperiled by the flight to safety. 'If Social Security reform stalls, blood will be in the water,' warns Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation. 'Democrats fighting for what I prefer to call the Dependency Society will be emboldened to oppose all of Bush's ownership agenda.'''

Charles Krauthammer outlines a scenario blaming Democrats for "[h]aving lured the president out onto a far limb on Social Security," calling President Bush's progressive indexing plan "as fair and progressive a plan as you can find," and saying that Democrats are only playing for political advantage in the debate. LINK

We wonder why Mr. Krauthammer wasn't more supportive of Al Gore's call for the lockbox in 2000. (Actually: we don't.)

Sen. Chuck Grassley was befuddled to find that Muscatine citizens were not so curious (or at least less talkative) about Social Security on Wednesday, writes Peter Ruggs of the Muscatine Journal. LINK

The British election:

The Washington Post's Glenn Frankel looks at the vote that gave British Prime Minister Tony Blair a third term, but a smaller Labor Party majority as a result of voter anger over his support of the war in Iraq. LINK

Dan Balz looks at the factors Britons considered when making their decision. LINK

E.J. Dionne breaks down why he thinks voters decided to give Blair one more chance. LINK

Results (including super-cool interactive maps): LINK; LINK; LINK

Local coverage: LINK; LINK; LINK; LINK

Bush agenda:

John Harwood's Washington Wire says that "business braces for possibility that new corporate levies could offset reductions for individuals, as in Reagan-era legislation."

David Sanger and William Broad seem to have a direct downlink from NRO satellites to their desks, as (apparently) one U.S. intelligence agency they contacted for a story about rapid preps for a North Korean nuclear test hadn't heard of any. LINK

Paul Krugman tries to savage the Medicare bill (again) in his column: "The new Medicare law subsidizes private health plans, which have repeatedly failed to deliver promised cost savings. It creates an unnecessary layer of middlemen by requiring that the drug benefit be administered by private insurers. The biggest giveaway is to Big Pharma: the law specifically prohibits Medicare from using its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices." LINK

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